Kirsten Vangsness

‘Criminal Minds’ star performing at Barn Theater

Kirsten Vangsness, star of the hit CBS TV show “Criminal Minds” promises her one-woman comedy play she will be doing this weekend at the Barn Theater will be special.

Vangsness, who spent her younger years growing up in Porterville, will perform the play, “Mess” that she wrote a few years ago. 

Vangsness will be performing her play not once but three times, with two performances at the Barn Theater starting at 2:30 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, with the last performance at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.

“This show, this weekend, is going to be incredibly special. My experience of who I am as a person is so imbedded in Porterville,” said Vangsness. “I was such an oddball growing up, it was such a definitive moment for me, my time in Porterville is so valuable to me, and all the experiences I have there.”

Vangsness moved with her family to Porterville more than 20 years ago after her dad was offered a job, and attended Vandalia Elementary School where her mom was a teacher. She then lived in Terra Bella for a while before coming back to Porterville and attending Pioneer Middle School. 

Vangsness and her family later moved to Cerritos, where she graduated from Cerritos High School and then went on to attend Cypress College and later graduated from California State University, Fullerton.

Much of her childhood was spent in Porterville, and she thinks the experience of living here shaped her into the person she is now. “Mess,” is based off a TED Talk called “Making Sense of a Visible Quantum Object,” reflecting the perception of life and time. She says Quantum physics made her think about events in her life. 

Throughout the play, much of it goes back and forth in flashbacks based on different stages of her life, all in a chaotic sort of mess, among these flashbacks is Porterville weaving in and out of her life. 

“All of it happens in Porterville, it’s all Porterville related, I talk about Porterville, I talk about my house, my best friend Jodie, and this sort of summer version of SCICON,” said Vangsness.

The play, says Vangsness, is about a lot of things. She breaks into song at times during the performance and uses humor to unravel time not as a linear concept, but as something that shifts based on experiences.  

“It’s a piece about democracy, it starts in your own body, your internal voices telling you who you are, but you want to be somebody different. It definitely has some magical realism in it. It’s very autobiographical,” said Vangsness. “It starts off a little confusing, by the end of it, everyone is kind of on the same page, and it’s just about chaos in general, when you start writing all these things start showing up.”

“Mess” is one of the first plays Vangness has ever written after starting on it eight years ago. She calls it a living document. She has performed it many times around the country in New York, Alabama, Texas, Georgia and of course Los Angeles to sold-out audiences for charities and fundraisers.

After having such a great turnout in all the places Vangsness has performed it at, she says it has to do with how relatable the play is. 

“It doesn’t matter where I go, or where I do this show, I try to write in a way that connects everybody,” said Vangsness. “By the end of it, my hope can be that things don’t have to be black and white. I don’t have an answer, but I think, the act of doing the show, it’s explaining that question.”

Of all the places Vangsness has performed the play, Porterville seems to be the place most important to her, and she will be filming the performance and her visit as a video concert series. “There is no better place to document it, than Porterville,” said Vangsness. “I’m delighted to come back to Porterville. I would do this for free and all the profits made will go to the Barn Theater.” 

Her stage work has won her the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Natalie Schafer Award for best emerging comic actress, the 15 Minutes of Female Best Actress Award, and a Garland Award for best actress for the West Coast premiere of Neil LaBute’s “Fat Pig” at the Geffen Playhouse.

Some of the plays she’s written have been monologues and one-person solo acts which have been well received throughout Los Angeles. She’s currently writing a comedy pilot for ABC Studios.

“I’ve been a theater nerd in Hollywood for a decent amount of time. I feel like it translates who I am,” said Vangsness. 

Apart from starring in “Criminal Minds,” as the techie geek, Vangsness and some of her other notable work and performances can also be seen in season three of web series “Pretty” and season two of the web series “Vampire Mob.” 

Other film appearances include “The A-List” (2006), “Scream of the Bikini” (2009), “In My Sleep” (2010), and “The Chicago 8” (2011).

Porterville Barn Theater is located 42 S. Plano St., Porterville. For more information on how to reserve tickets, call 310-7046.

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